§ This is not an appeal, but an order from the Irish Republican Government. To those who ignore it will be meted the punishment of traitors.
§ By ORDER,
§ G.O.C. Eastern Command, I.R.A., East Wicklow Area
§ (On behalf of the Irish Republican Government)."
§ That is not a solitary illustration, but I do not wish to weary the Committee by giving other instances. Remember that in these districts the so-called Irish Republican Government has the power of carrying out the threats it uses to these men, whose only crime is to discharge their duty. I must say that I regret that hon. Members should have thought it necessary to raise this question at the present time. These inert are doing all they can, and I believe they will ultimately succeed in suppressing the horrible and dangerous conspiracy which has made Ireland a by-word among the civilised countries of the world.
The description given by the hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Moles) of my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Leith (Captain W. Bents) as being something between a fanatic and a savage will not encourage the Committee to rely very much on the hon. Member's description of his own country.
Then I must have misinterpreted it. I thought the hon. Member suggested that my hon. and gallant Friend had both the qualities of a fanatic and a savage. If the phrase was used in an Ulsterian sense I pass it by. Even Englishmen may be permitted to speak on the present condition of Ireland.
Some of us may feel some responsibility for it, and from that point of view may be permitted to indulge in discussion without unfavourable comment. I am quite sure that tie Chief Secretary is not absent from the Debate from any want of courage. It is perfectly clear that no man could hold the office he holds and subject himself to the perils which undoubtedly attach themselves to anyone holding that office, without possessing great qualities of courage. I am quite sure it is not the absence of those qualities which accounts for the right hon. 1256 Gentleman's absence from the Committee. It is just possible that his absence may be due to other feelings. It may be that some little feeling of shame keeps hint from the Committee. It cannot be a very happy position for a Liberal statesman to find himself in at the present time, to have to be the apologist for the condition of things which exists in Ireland. I think it is quite within the scope of this Debate to discuss the state of affairs there. What are we discussing? The question of very considerable increases in the pay of the Royal Irish Constabulary. I suggest that there is some connection between the increase in their pay and the present condition of affairs in Ireland. I am led to that view by a consideration of the fact that these increases in pay were made closely upon the increases of pay given to the police force in this country. One can see a very close analogy between the causes that led to both. One cannot help feeling that the increases in pay were given, not because of any great consideration of the conditions in which the police of either country then found themselves, but because only through such increases in their pay could they be induced to retain their positions. [HON. MEMBEES: "No. no!"] I think that has been clearly established. In this country at least the police were very closely in sympathy with the people. They w ere forming a union which brought them closely in touch with the rest of the workers, and it was perfectly clear—
§ The CHAIRMAN
That question has been settled by an Act of Parliament, and that question is a matter for legislation. We are not entitled to debate those points in Committee of Supply.
I shall not pursue the analogy, and will come to the Royal Irish Constabulary. There is not the slightest desire on this side of the Committee to cast the least reflection on that body as individuals. It is perfectly clear that they are exposed to great perils and subjected in many cases to outrage. It is perfectly clear that the position of the member of the Royal Irish Constabulary—I suppose, most of them are Irishmen—must be at the present time almost intolerable. Front which ever side of the Committee the stories come, they all point to this one thing, that at the present time an Irish policeman is almost entirely out of sympathy with the great body of his countrymen. All the instances given point to it. 1257 It does not matter whether they are told by my hon. and gallant Friend or by hon. Members opposite. From the one side we hear that the police are in such a state of nerves that they fire at a couple of men in a railway station who run away from them, and that they fire upon a motor car. From the other side we hear stories of a constable standing in the midst of fifty of his countrymen, not a single one of whom would raise a finger to prevent his being clone to death. Such a state of things is wholly incredible. If one contrasts the native policemen in Ireland with the native policemen in England, he sees that there must be something radically wrong to account for the difference. From that point of view it is perfectly legitimate for us on this side on this question, without any intention of doing any injury at all to the Royal Irish Constabulary, to point out what we believe to be the real state of the case, namely, that the position of the police is due to the general condition and the general government there prevailing. Everything that has been said by the Attorney-General points to the same thing. He has said that the police go about at the risk of their lives. We may believe that. He has also told us that in the case of death it is not a case of meeting with honour, but of meeting with hatred and contempt. Every sentence he spoke pointed to an entirely abnormal state of things. His hope is that in order to put an end to this there may arise a healthy public opinion. How can that be obtained? Why are there no signs of it arising? How can you expect it to be aroused when your houses are being raided, and when your gaols are being filled with women, boys and girls? One of the worst instances we had before the War, as revealing the state of Germany, was the Zabern incident of a hunchback who smiled derisively at a soldier. We learn that in Ireland a boy is put in gaol for whistling derisively at a policeman.
§ The CHAIRMAN
This is really not an occasion for a general debate on the state of Ireland. The increased pay is fixed for Ireland as well as England by Act of Parliament. The general state of Ireland does not arise here. This is a Supplementary Vote for increased pay following the Act of Parliament.
It is very difficult when you are discussing the cost of a weapon not to have some reference to the purposes for which it is being used. I will 1258 not go further in that direction. I think I cannot be out of order in replying to what the Attorney-General actually said.
I am content to be out of order in such excellent company. It was one great Irishman, Edmund Burke, who said it was impossible to indict a whole people. Evidently another great Irishman, the Lord Chief Justice, finds it quite possible to eliminate the Government, the clergy and the police and to rest the blame for the present condition of things upon the people of Ireland. We on this side of the House can only say that we feel we are not going a yard beyond the position we are entitled to take on this Vote in drawing attention to the intolerable and unsatisfactory state of affairs in Ireland.
Question put, and agreed to.